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Where is all the new coffee?

By Daniel Parodi on

Photo courtesy of Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A few days ago, we were alerted to a small shipment of an African coffee that just arrived. Before we even received our evaluation samples the stock was snapped up. In a blink, we missed out.

This happened largely because most of the new crops are very late getting to the USA because of the global shipping crisis. This is important news for coffee buyers and consumers because it could impact not only availability, but prices.

Box Shortage. You've probably heard that cargo shipping containers are in short supply. Between work disruptions caused by Covid, 18,000 of them clogging the Suez Canal in March and a huge spike in general consumption, there simply isn't enough shipping capacity to go around. We know of plenty of farmers that are sitting on mountains of coffee as they wait for empty containers to load.

But each container only holds about 250 sacks each (about 37,500 pounds). For perspective, one local import warehouse stores something like 50 million pounds of coffee, so one container load is really only a drop in the bucket. But with coffee going out and little coming in, warehouse supply in the US is now sitting at a 6-year low.

Prices. We are not yet sounding the alarms, but coffee prices are starting to creep up. And while Brazil (the world's largest coffee producer) had a record crop in 2020 (up 15% from 2019), forecasts for this years' crop look to be down about 23% because of low rainfall. While you may not be purchasing any Brazil coffee, this matters because all coffee prices are linked through the commodities market.

US "Coffee C Arabica" denotes the coffee commodity futures price. It was up 3.64% today. With retail dining still not fully opened in some places, demand is still somewhat muted and likely helping to keep prices in check. For now.

New Arrivals. There are a few new coffees "on the water" (on shipping vessels en route to the US) that we have our eyes on, so we are hopeful to be posting some new offerings soon. But ETAs keep getting delayed as even those full, inbound ships continue to jam up at points-of-entry. Where we are in Northern California, the average number of ships at port or waiting has more than tripled.

We attended an SF Giants game a few weeks ago and the normal unobstructed view of the SF Bay from the stadium was tiled with dozens of idling cargo ships.


We continue to pace in circles, waiting for good things to land.

We'll keep you posted!

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